Mark McInturff
Mark McInturff

Mark McInturff is a builder's kind of custom architect in that he doesn't let his ego get in the way of designing great houses that suit, if broadly, the character of their surroundings. “Our work isn't trendy, in your face, or aggressively shouting at the neighbors,” says the 20-time Builder's Choice Award recipient. “We believe the community is more important than the individual.”

Even so, McInturff has made a living of, and established a reputation for, adding new threads to the fabric of well-established and historic neighborhoods in Washington. In so doing, he always strives to balance new boundaries of design with respect for what's already there. “We're introducing new housing elements in an existing and historical context,” he says. “But there's always a sense and feeling of belonging.”

McInturff has a passion for the relatively small and intimate scale of residential design (“All buildings aspire to be houses,” he says), which he forged as a student of Charles Moore's. He enjoys feeding off of his clients' aspirations and emotions and, more recently, thanks to the Internet, their heightened awareness of what they want. In turn, he says, his clients—and the design review boards he confronts—are much more accepting of the often contemporary approaches he presents. “There are increasingly broad boundaries for what's appropriate” in architecture and in society in general, McInturff says.

And while he's not so interested in leaving a legacy or leading the industry, McInturff does draw a distinction about his work: “One could say, ‘I want to change the world by doing a 1,000-house project.' Or [one could say], ‘I want to change it incrementally by doing a thousand single houses.'”